Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Separatist Shepherd and his Sheeps

André Boisclair, the leader of the Parti Québécois (PQ)

Usually perceived as a coward and bland politician, the leader of the Parti Québécois (PQ) André Boisclair, on the night of the leaders’ debate, surprisingly crushed a plethora of prejudices that still sullies his reputation. Strange though it might sound, we saw for once in André Boisclair a man who can express clear messages devoid of pitiable embellishments of style.

He really brought few changes in his personal image despite the fact that he talks like a robot. Even though we might not agree with his ideas (what ideas?), Boisclair still succeeded into criticizing the stances of his two opponents by pointing out good remarks and asking good questions. However, the sky is the limit.

Anyone who saw the debate could tell that Boisclair wasn’t dreaming at all about sitting on Quebec’s highest seat. That’s why he didn’t propose any solutions to improve the quality of life in Quebec. In fact, Bernard Landry’s successor was on duty: saving the PQ’s sheeps. All in all, looking like an empty shell was probably a necessity for André Boisclair, because he knows that he can’t become Quebec’s next Premier.

This provincial election campaign will not be about who André Boisclair is as someone who wants to be Premier. It will only be about what status André Boisclair can give to his party once it will evidently be torpedoed in what I call the “general opposition” after the night of the provincial election on the 26th of March.

The post-election period will be important for André Boisclair’s political future. Obviously, the leader of the PQ will struggle to make sure that his party will obtain the status of the “Official Opposition”, which means the party facing the Premier and also the one that can ask questions as much as it wants. Many supporters of the PQ will be mad at André Boisclair if the PQ becomes a “non-recognized party” at the National Assembly.

In fact, to be “recognized” at the National Assembly, a political party must have 1) 12 elected deputies or 2) 20% of the popular votes. If any given party of the “general opposition” falls below these standards, it can only ask two questions per week during the parliamentary session. Obviously, if the PQ becomes a “non-recognized” party, you can be sure that its hot-tempered supporters will quickly ask for a leadership campaign in order to have a leader who can score better than André Boisclair.

The rise of the ADQ’s popularity is obviously disadvantaging the PQ. Frustrated and moderate PQ supporters are convinced that Mario Dumont’s party represent a good choice for them. In fact, they see in him a man who can decentralize the Canadian federalism. Besides, despite staying with their personal conviction, these frustrated separatists are probably not in a hurry to see Quebec separate from Canada.

As for the federalists (that includes the “soft nationalists”), some of them might like the idea of asking for a few acts of decentralization from the federal government in favour of Quebec. Other frustrated federalists (just like me) almost have the same views with Mario Dumont on the management of the healthcare system, religious accommodations and also about the place of Quebec’s bureaucracy in the economy.At this time, André Boisclair certainly understood that the ADQ’s attraction index mostly lies in 1) its refusal to separate from Canada (for federalists like me) and 2) its desire to claim for a better respect of Quebec’s cultural specificity within Canada (for separatists and soft nationalists). The ADQ is neither federalist nor separatist.

For frustrated federalists and separatists, the ADQ is the ideal place where you can park (or maybe cast with your heart) your vote even though you don’t embrace that ridiculous and unrealistic idea of autonomy within Canada. Just to let you know, “autonomists” in Quebec only represent an ideological minority as far as we know. Besides, let's also not forget the left-wing separatists who will vote for Québec Solidaire...

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